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Over the last few decades, Mickey Hart has been around the world on a personal quest to find a global rhythm. To attempt to make sense of a planet through percussion, with the hopes of exposing a beating and pulsing thread that runs the world over in sound, is not only a never-ending task, but makes perfect sense when the results are as well-executed as this.
Playing with the Grateful Dead gave Hart not only decades of practice and education in the beats of that particularly diverse music machine, but the means to pursue his creative whims and continue his journey towards procuring a monstrous rhythm vocabulary. Well into the new millennium he continues that voyage. On Global Drum Project, he and fellow percussionist Zakir Hussain have assembled a group of musicians to make a modern drum record that steers clear of new age’s more demure temperaments while harnessing modern technology to expose the music’s breathing, pulsing heart. Skirting the boundaries of improvised abandon and honing in on movement, color, and melody, he and eight other world musicians manage to make a drum record’ sound like so much more.
“Baba” clears out a space for the departed mentor Babatunde Olatunji, master percussionist and tutor of Hart’s. Olatunji’s voice echoes and rolls out melodies like river stones and takes us to Africa, where the deepest grooves lay. “Kaluli Groove”, while full of traditional percussion instruments and circling melodies, it is more akin to modern electronic music like Thievery Corporation, skirting more traditional world music aesthetics. It lopes and lingers like a drug. Voice samples fly and guitar-like melodies go round in perfect circles. “Dances With Wood” shimmers with shakers and the sound of woodblocks in call and response reciprocity, exposing patterns and oblong cadences that come and go in perfect execution. “I Can Tell You More” ends Global Drum in full color, recalling a particularly solid and spooky version of a Dead drums/space excursion.
One facet of this soundscape that brings the record into the realms of melody is the presence of sitar, xylophone, bells, talking drums and the human voice which makes this a more human experience than a beating, pulsing rhythm beast. Still, the drums are the central force and root of everything presented here. It’s a multi-headed human drum machine, decipherable in any language. In spite of its expansive and far-reaching temperament, it settles down to Earth easily enough, where it all started.